From the Stone Age

Long ago some one carved me in the semblance of a god.
I have forgot now what god I was meant to represent.
I have no consciousness now but of stone, sunlight, and rain;
The sun baking my skin of stone, the wind lifting my hair;
The sun’s light is hot upon me,
The moon’s light is cool,
Casting a silver-laced pattern of light and dark
Over the planes of my body:
My thoughts now are the thoughts of a stone,
My substance now is the substance of life itself;
I have sunk deep into life as one sinks into sleep;
Life is above me, below me, around me, 
Moving through my pores of stone—
It does not matter how small the space you pack life in,
That space is as big as the universe—
Space, volume, and the overtone of volume
Move through me like chords of music,
Like the taste of happiness in the throat,
Which you fear to lose, though it may choke you—
(In the cities this is not known,
For space there is emptiness,
And time is torment) . . . . .
Since I became a stone
I have no need to remember anything—
Everything is remembered for me;
I live and I think and I dream as a stone,
In the warm sunlight, in the grey rain;
All my surfaces are touched to softness
By the light fingers of the wind,
The slow dripping of rain:
My body retains only faintly the image
It was meant to represent,
I am more beautiful and less rigid,
I am a part of space,
Time has entered into me,
Life has passed through me—
What matter the name of the god I was meant to represent?


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on January 28, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“From the Stone Age” was first published in The New Republic vol. 14, no. 181 (April 20, 1918), and later appeared in Alice Corbin Henderson’s collection Red Earth: Poems of New Mexico (Ralph Fletcher Seymour, 1920). In “Modernist Women, Snake Stories, and the Indigenous Southwest: An Ecofeminist Politics of Creation and Affirmation,” collected in Women Writing Nature: A Feminist View (Lexington Books, 2008), Alex Hunt, professor of English and Haley Endowed Professor of Western studies at West Texas A&M University, writes that the speaker “adopts the persona of a sentient, feminine earth” in “From the Stone Age,” a point also made by scholar Lois Palken Rudnick in her essay “Re-Naming the Land: Anglo Expatriate Women in the Southwest,” where she argues that “[w]hen Henderson projects her human consciousness onto the landscape, she does so in order to ‘think’ or ‘feel’ as the land does, not in order to appropriate it.” The question with which the poem concludes, Hunt writes, suggests that “[t]he earth as Goddess, though retaining sentience, requires no proper name [. . .]; the essential nature of the earth goddess precedes names and is universal, available to whatever cultural representations and namings that will inevitably come.”